Remember the trips to the arcade when you were a kid? Remember Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Metal Slug? And remember travelling at light speed through a million flashing colours, shooting enemies and dodging obstacles, in everyone’s favourite collection of spaceship games? Well, that’s exactly where Hyper Void belongs. Sure, the graphics are above and beyond anything you would have seen at an arcade, and the game has tried much harder than its influences – take Gradius for instance – to add story to the mix. But apart from this, Hyper Void is a true addition to the much-loved space shooter genre.
The premise of Hyper Void is quite simple. Earth is under threat, and you pilot one of the best, and last, defence ships. Using wormholes you travel through space to the source of the enemy. While doing so, you encounter the usual myriad of problems: enemies totally outnumber you, they adapt resistances to your weapons and their obstructions block your way through wormholes. Bar these few hurdles, the story doesn’t extend beyond the ‘go here, save humanity’ plotline. And that’s fine. I’d say that anyone looking for an immersive story in-game called “Hyper Void” is looking for love in all the wrong places. But in terms of visuals and addictive gameplay, the game certainly delivers.
The whole idea of wormhole travel yields some incredible environments. Hyper Void’s level design is impeccable, specifically in the later game. The geometry and colour schemes of certain levels is explorative and unique, yet never seems gratuitous. Levels wrap around themselves while flashing psychedelic colours. I lost many an in-game life because I was dumbstruck by the artwork and design.
Aiming your attacks becomes phenomenally difficult when the levels start wrapping around themselves. Still, for some reason, it never seems like an unfair challenge. The viruses that cause malfunctions in your ship’s weapons, thrusters and display are neat little challenges. And, even though they stretched on a while too long, the obstacle dodging levels were a tasteful step away from the usual kaleidoscopic firefight.
Matching enemy colours to the colours of your attacks added a new and welcome element to the whole flashing, fluorescent, epilepsy-inspiring tableau. And were it done correctly, I’m sure this idea would have met critical acclaim. However, these attacks are mapped about as well as the Mariana Trench, that is to say: not at all.
See, Hyper Drive has attacks of three specific colours (namely red, green and blue), and its gameplay requires the player to distinguish between these attacks (usually during periods of stress.) Now, forgive me for being presumptuous, but one would assume that the game would map attacks to their correspondingly coloured buttons, especially considering that the attacks are mapped to these three buttons anyway. Alas, Hyper Void maps the blue attack the B button, the red attack to the A button and the green attack the X button. At first, I thought that it might have been a ridiculous and lazy way of increasing Hyper Void’s difficulty, but the developers themselves have said that they aimed to make Hyper Void a more accessible type of space shooter. So, there isn’t much of an explanation or excuse for, arguably, Hyper Void’s most frustrating flaw.
Another issue with Hyper Void was the distribution of checkpoints. Some levels had multiple, and other levels had none. Take level 14 for instance; you’re travelling through a wormhole, dodging shooting walls or shooting them when you can. After dodging a certain amount of these walls, the game throws another challenge at you, and it continues to throw challenges, not checkpoints, at you for close to five minutes. I do understand the need for a challenge, but like the button mapping issue, this merely makes the game annoying when it could have been fun.
These frustrations notwithstanding, the game was relatively pain-free in terms of difficulty. Sure, it was still difficult, just not to the extent that such games usually. Still, hard-core players fret not for the addition of Hyper Mode will provide the frustrating challenge you masochistically love.
For the most part the game is very well put together, especially considering the size of the developing team. The graphics are polished, the controls are smooth, and, more than that, the game is fun. But when all is weighed and measured, that’s really all it is. Some would argue that Hyper Void doesn’t extend the Konami-style shoot ‘em up formula. For the most part, they’d be right because in itself this formula is limiting. And in following it so closely Hyper Void has cut itself short. It’s really a double-edged sword. On one hand Hyper Void has pushed the space shooter genre to new heights in terms of graphics and visuals. Yet on the other it has limited its possibilities by adhering, so closely, to the genres conventions. Yes, Hyper Void is visually dazzling with its fluorescence and polychromatism. But under all this Hyper Void remains true to its roots: it’s addictive fun, but not much more than that.
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